31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN: LAKE MUNGO (2008)
I am a fan of both found footage films and mockumentaries so when you combine the two and give it that always welcome Australian flavor (the Aussies can make a pretty fun horror film) it's a can't miss right? I don't know if I would call the film a misfire, but it definitely doesn't work as well as it should.
Lake Mungo was part of the "After Dark Horrorfest" in 2010; this was the third (and so far last) year of the festival which brought a handful of independent horror features to theaters around the country for a few days. It was a good idea that unfortunately didn't spawn too many good films. Of the dozen or so I've seen two have been pretty good (Deaths of Ian Stone and The Gravedancers), one has been really awful (Lake Dead), and the rest were just straight up mediocre (Tooth and Nail, Dark Ride, Borderlands, etc.). Mungo pretty firmly falls in the latter category.
The film chronicles the events that take place after a young girl named Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) is found dead in the title lake. Death is initially ruled an accidental drowning. Many mysterious events start taking place after this incident (I guess we wouldn't have a movie if they didn't) including what appears to be Alice's ghost popping up in some home videos and photos (this is where the film slightly ventures into found footage territory). I will be delving into some minor spoilers. I don't think this will ruin your viewing of the film if you haven't seen it yet, but you've been warned.
We find out rather quickly that Alice's brother (Martin Sharpe) has been doctoring the photos and videos to help their mother cope with the loss of Alice. This is a pretty cool twist on what usually happens in these types of films, and I was thinking that was going to be a pretty cool story. Then things get weird and not in a very good way.
We of course find out that Alice was not the precious angel her parents thought her to be. Due to footage of their neighbor being spotted in their house (how the hell did he even get in?) they discover a sex tape with him and possibly his wife. It's never really explained. At first this does add some more intrigue to the storyline, but ends up suffering from the fact that they kind of drop the sub-plot not long after they start it. Apparently the family has moved away, but no one knows where they moved to? I'm assuming Alice is underage, so you would think this would lead the police to a little bit more of a search for these possible pedophiles.
Then more footage is found of Alice in a different situation involving a party that I believe takes place around the Lake although the footage is horribly grainy (or I guess it could be the streaming feed on Netflix, but the rest of the film looked fine) and so it's hard to make out exactly what is going on. But this being a horror movie, we are quickly led to believe that her ghost (or someones) really is hanging around.
The ghostly possibilities (although left ambiguous) kind of make the intriguing parts of the film (the brother trying to help his mother out) seem way too coincidental. And not to mention the video from the party just comes out of nowhere; a friend decides to show some footage taken from her cell phone which considering what it contains would probably have popped up much sooner.
The film is well shot. The news footage is done so well a passerby would probably think you were watching a legit documentary. And I really do like the concept; I just wasn't a huge fan of the execution. So while there was plenty to admire, it could have been so much more which makes it all the more disappointing.